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Why should a Data Scientist take part in a Hackathon?

It’s clear why the standard software developer should attend hackathons. After all, it’s a HACKATHON! Tailor made for software engineers.

But a hackathon is not only for software developers. Teams that do well in our hackathons have a few things in common. Team members come from a variety of different skill sets. They are not all coders. One team member might be very good at product management. (Here’s why a product manager should attend a hack.) Another team member might be a hacky type of coder. And so on. You get the drift.

It’s good to have a variety of perspectives. After all, who doesn’t want to have a logical, mathematical data sciencey kind of being on board?

Everyone wants a Data Scientist as their friend!
Everyone wants a Data Scientist as their friend!

But there is more. Let me be a bit more concrete. As always, an example is worth a thousand explanations.

Say you are in a hackathon where you have to build solutions centered around travel. At first glance, why would a data scientist be useful? Well, one of the ideas could be gathering data about user preferences and making sense of it. There are several ready-made algorithms for this kind of stuff. But to make full use of them, you would need a person well versed in the field.

Without an expert, it’s like trying to figure out solo why your Windows keep crashing. You’d definitely need a Windows expert to fathom that out, right? (Bill Gates, please don’t sue and please forgive me for this jab.)

It’s a growing trend nowadays. To leverage insights provided by data to make better products. After all, in the age of Web 2.0, companies make data-driven decisions all the time. Often poorly, I might add. That’s because they don’t have a data scientist on board. To steer the rudder.

I hope it’s clear now that having a data scientist in the team is almost a necessity. But what’s in it for the data scientist? After all one does need to get something out of the time and expertise one puts in. So why data guru, should YOU lend your time and expertise?

Here are some reasons why. These are obvious. Networking, working with great minds etc. etc. etc. Pretty generic and applicable to all. But what about you in particular?

Well, it’s always nice to be looked up to. As the data whizz with a rarefied skill set, you ARE one of the superstars of the team.

You also work on interesting problems that you may not come across in your line of work. I also recommend that you take part in hackathons without a specific data science theme. In a data hack, you get a specialized dataset and you make sense of it. Simple enough. But in hacks not specifically related to data, things get a bit murkier. You will have to think about innovative ways of gathering and using data.

It is clear that data scientists are worth their weight in data in hackathons AND IN REAL LIFE. The expertise they bring to the table is invaluable. And if you are a data scientist reading this post, well, all we can do is to tip our hats to you guys! A programmer, a statistician, a mathematician (and a business person!) all rolled in to one. That’s a data scientist in a nutshell.

An all round Guru!
An all round Guru!

Want to show your data sciencey stuff in a hack? Take part in the upcoming Geeks and Games hack and show the Muggles how you data whizzes roll!


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Bharat Ramakrishna

Blogger. Part-time mathematics enthusiast. Loves esoteric and quirky things. Bibliophile. Has a wide range of interests including playing chess and pool, juggling and creating puzzles of fiendish difficulty. Grammar Nazi.